Edyta Kwiatkowska is an executive coach and owner of Hana Mana Instuyut and Leadit.
Can you have an extremely open mind? History shows us situations in which something that was considered unthinkable later turned out to be a fact.
Touch screens, video calls or even the shape of our planet. In the past, people were convinced that these issues were impossible, impossible to verify or even unreal. Time passes and then we discover that what we thought was only fictional becomes reality.
After all, 30 years ago, none of us thought about the possibility of commercial space travel, and if anyone thought about it, they are people who are changing our reality now.
In theory, we are aware of the importance of the openness of our mind in business aspects. However, in practice, we can become so strongly committed to one theory or idea that we are unable to go beyond what we know.
What might the consequences be?
There are a few outcomes that could stem from this behavior.
• We will not undertake the project, because we consider it unrealistic in advance, and argue that we are realistic and that we keep our feet on the ground.
• We will not develop our business, because instead of looking to the future and development, we look back, and thus believe that business or behavior will return to what it used to be. Has this ever happened in human history?
• We will not establish important relationships because our minds will be too closed to explore the topic on a new level.
We are limited in our own thinking. We live in our little boxes. Sometimes when we grow out of them, we move into a bigger box and we arrange ourselves again with our beliefs. Sometimes it is difficult for us to change our way of thinking about how to communicate with employees, let alone change the way we think about how to run a business. Our openness ends exactly where our interlocutor has a completely different opinion.
If someone does not agree with us or says something to us that is completely beyond our way of thinking or understanding the world, it is worth just listening and giving yourself a moment to reflect before evaluating what you hear.
What could extreme open-mindedness do for you?
If you can maintain extreme open-mindedness, there are a range of benefits you might experience.
• Better communication in private and professional life. You appreciate what you know but are open to the fact that you do not know best.
• Better business ideas. You would not be forced to search for similarities between what you do and what is fashionable, you could explore new areas.
• Better communication during a discussion over conflicting views.
• Better approachability. You’ll likely have an opinion that makes people feel they can come to you because you can listen and are curious about the world.
Our beliefs are a killer of creativity and openness. When we hear something we do not agree with, we often say “yes, but” instead of considering the opinion of our interlocutor. At all costs, we try to convince them of, in our opinion, the right side of the topic or way of thinking.
I have an important exercise for you. Of course, you know that practicing mindfulness can improve your open-mindedness skills. But this might change your perspective.
Organize a one-on-one conversation with a person who has a completely different way of thinking than yours. In this conversation, follow these tips:
• Start with something low-stakes, like how being a night owl or a morning person can influence motivation or diet habits.
• Be a part of this conversation, not just a listener, and try to ask questions.
• Try to understand the opposite side of thinking and avoid being judgmental.
This is an awesome way to stretch your mind. If one day you feel full of understanding with no need to convince another side, you will have reached the next level. Wouldn’t that be great to talk with people who have completely different ways of thinking without stress and argument? It is possible. Try to practice.
Extreme openness of mind is my own personal vision, which I strive for in small steps every day. I still stumble, because something is happening that is beyond my current understanding of things, but I decided that I would train my mind, practice my way of talking and every day I would be more and more open to new ideas.
I believe that for a coach it is the basis of functioning. However, if each of us tried to adopt such an attitude, we could live in a completely different world. We could live in a world where people are fascinated by the fact that they disagree with each other and treat such situations as a space to deepen the topics rather than as an opportunity to get someone to their side.